The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a close battle at running back till this point. But it became apparent in week four that they may have their bell cow. Bruce Arians and his staff made a statement in week four that thrust Leonard Fournette to the forefront of the depth chart.
The Stat Line
Sunday, against the New England Patriots, Leonard Fournette was given the nod to take on the majority of the carries. The result was 20 carries totaling 91 yards. In all, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. In the first drive, Fournette broke out with a 21-yard scamper down the field. Unfortunately, the drive resulted in no points.
Additionally, Fournette was targeted five times in the passing game. Hauling in three for 47 yards for an average of 15.7 yards a reception. On second and six, in the fourth quarter, Fournette caught a screen pass for 23 yards. His longest of the day.
Why Week Four
Week four’s break out was no miracle. Rather it came by design. In total the Buccaneers rushed just 39 times in the first three weeks. That s an average of 13 rushes a game. So why the change? My hypothesis, simply put Bruce Arians’ and staff new they needed to use some different things on offense to protect the weakened secondary. In order to do so they needed to control the clock to relieve some of the pressure. The result was double the rush attempts from the average of the first three weeks.
Ronald Jones II had a great rushing touchdown from eight yards out in the third quarter. Buccaneers fans went nuts. It put the team up for the time being and left some fans asking why he doesn’t start.
The truth right now is that he’s not the better running back. Though the stats only show slight differences between the two Fournette showed enough to carry the work load Sunday. Through the first three games Fournette has averaged .3 yards per carry more. Additionally he had a catch rate of 85.7% to Jones’ 33.3% though Jones averaged more yards a reception. At this point the staff trusts him more, that’s why he received the bulk this week.
If the secondary is not fixed soon, or the team doesn’t get a player back from injury the game plan may call for more rushing attempts. If that trend continues Fournette will continue to be the primary back. Even if the team gets their secondary healthy they have a good running back who is poised for more work, and should get it.